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Gasoline prices drop just in time for holiday

May 22, 2003|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

When it's time to fill his car's gas tank, Calvin Mahaney regularly checks gas prices at local stations, so he said he was surprised to see prices come down in recent weeks.

Normally, gas prices spike heading into Memorial Day weekend because demand for gas increases as people hit the road for the long weekend, AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Myra Wieman said.

Politics have contributed to an oversupply of crude oil so consumers are seeing a good effect on pump prices, Wieman said.

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In Hagerstown, the average price for one gallon of self-serve regular gasoline was $1.43 on Tuesday compared to $1.53 a month ago and $1.64 on Feb. 14, according to AAA. Statewide, the average price of regular gas was $1.49 per gallon on Tuesday compared with $1.60 a month ago.

That's great for the more than half a million Marylanders planning road trips of 50 miles or more this weekend, according to AAA.

Mahaney, 74, of Fairplay, said he just got back from a trip to the southern United States, where he paid $1.21 per gallon in Alabama and Mississippi.

While Mahaney isn't seeing such low prices in the Hagerstown area, he said he was grateful for the price decrease at local stations.

The price drop means Mahaney spent $11 to top off his gas tank Wednesday at the Exxon on South Potomac Street instead of the $15 it cost him a few weeks ago. Add to that the money he will spend this summer on gasoline for his mower and those are significant dollars, especially for a retiree on a fixed income, Mahaney said.

Harry Hess also noticed the price drop at the pump.

Hess, 23, of Hagerstown, recently got a job with the post office in Baltimore so he fills his Chevy S10 pickup truck's tank daily for the commute.

Hess paid $25 Wednesday at Sheetz on South Potomac Street compared with $30 not too long ago, he said.

Jack Mills, 55, of Hagerstown, also said he wasn't surprised prices came down before the holiday. Mills said he thinks that because the price increased so much a few months ago, when it came back down it would still be relatively high.

Wieman said she believed prices came down because supply is much greater than demand.

The war contributed to the price decrease indirectly because OPEC nations kept their oil production steady to avoid creating ill will with the warring countries, especially the United States, Wieman said.

In addition, several refineries switched back to producing gasoline now that temperatures are warming up and there is less demand for home heating oil, Wieman said.

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